Two years after an Uber driver raped a young woman in Gurgaon, for which he was served with a life imprisonment sentence, the punishment, it seems, has done little to deter the sexual offenders as incidents of cab drivers sexually abusing passengers are far from uncommon.
Typically, Mumbai has always been considered one of the safest places for women in the country. It’s the very same belief that made Mumbai-resident Viola Wadia vouch for the city’s safety when her expat friend wanted to travel from Pali Hill to 7 Bungalows alone. What followed though, was nothing short of a ‘nightmarish’ experience for the foreign national.
After being assured of how safe the city is, Viola’s friend took the Uber on her behest. But minutes into the ride, the driver tried to coax her into coming to the front seat. When she ignored the driver’s request, he asked if he could come and wipe the rear windshield due to poor visibility. When she agreed, the driver tried to take advantage of the situation and molest her.
Fortunately for the passenger, she was able to shout, push and make her way out of the cab.
After she narrated the incident to Viola, the latter took to her Facebook account to share her friend’s harrowing experience and spread awareness about the general lack of safety in the city. In her post, she also asked the cab aggregator to take stringent action against the driver and set an example out of him to ensure that people never have to think twice about recommending others to travel worry-free in the city.
An excerpt from her Facebook post reads:
“She asked us if Uber was safe and all of us jumped to assure her that she was in BOMBAY and she had nothing to worry about. Unfortunately we were proved wrong because this uber driver tried to molest her on their way to Versova.
He spoke to her in a friendly manner when she first got in and asked her where she was from and made small talk. Later, he said that since the roads in Mumbai are horrible she was welcome to come sit in the passenger seat up front with him. When she refused to move he complained about low visibility through his back screen and told her he was going to pull over to clean it. She was very uncomfortable but allowed him to stop to clean the screen. She was surprised when he came to the back seat under the pretext of cleaning the window from the inside and proceeded to put his hand on her thigh and tried to feel her up. She panicked and tried to push him off and only when she started shouting at him did he move off her and go back to his seat. She managed to jump off and get home safely.”
As of writing this article, Viola’s post has garnered close to 4000 shares on the social media platform.
Meanwhile, both Mumbai police and Uber were quick to respond and take action against the accused driver, Shehbaz.
Viola detailed the action in her comment that read, “Hi Guys! Uber responded last night and has agreed to cooperate with the Mumbai Police who have been unexpectedly prompt and efficient. Uber has suspended the driver permanently and has reported him to the Mumbai Drivers Association as well. Thank you everyone for being so supportive and sharing our post so quick action was possible! I like to think that we may have prevented an even worse incident from occurring in the future. So many disgusting stories have been unearthed since this post was put up and my inbox is flooded with women with similar stories that did not have the support system in order to bring their incident to light.. I encourage each and every one of you women out there with similar experiences to please post it online and you will be surprised at how many people will support you:-)”
Following the incident, an Uber spokesperson said, “Uber has a zero tolerance policy towards any sort of harassment or misconduct. We have suspended the driver from our platform and have shared all details related to the trip and the driver with the relevant authorities for official investigation.”